Bucking the corporate path

If Shifting Gears had been around when I was younger, I swear I would never have entered a rodeo and ridden an unbroken wild horse in front of a few thousand amused onlookers.

Prior to this disastrous exercise, I had embarked on a perfectly sensible career in agricultural science and was studying at a prestigious university in England. I was passionate about my subject and could talk for hours about different breeds of cattle, varieties of corn and the correct fertilizer rates for different crops. This was a problem for some people around me, including my first serious girlfriend.

“You’ve got to face facts, you’re very boring,” my best friend told me as I drowned my sorrows in the local English pub after being dumped. “You can’t change your personality, but you can change your career,” my friend advised. “You need to get into a line of work that has a little more excitement.”

It was at that point that my eye caught a poster on the pub wall advertising an American-style rodeo. “Okay,” I declared, “bring on the broncos. That ought to impress the lady.”

It didn’t. Even though I managed to stay on the horse for several seconds, I convinced my ex that my brain was indeed so full of agricultural trivia that the balance of my mind was disturbed.

Today, anyone seeking a career change for whatever reason can get more measured, thoughtful advice from a program we are running at TechTown called Shifting Gears, developed at Ann Arbor SPARK. Currently, we have seventeen men and women going through the course, which helps talented, well-qualified people understand the adjustments you need to make when moving from a large corporation to a small startup.

Individuals attending Shifting Gears receive a great deal of guidance. We all need it. Going from big business to a startup is, in my humble opinion, not all that different from changing a seat on a staid John Deere tractor for one on a bucking bronco.

As a part of the Shifting Gears program, participants fulfill internships with local companies. If your company is interested in hosting interns, please click here.

If you’re shifting gears yourself and would like to enroll in a future program, click here.

Randal Charlton is the Executive Director of TechTown, a business incubator in the city of Detroit. This post was republished with express permission.

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